We’re seeing all sorts of new and exciting innovations in the world of electric bicycles, with developments in motor and drivetrain technology being key industry drivers. As it would turn out, slapping an electric motor onto a bicycle could bring forth so many changes to other components. It makes sense that e-bike drivetrains are being optimized to match their electric motors.
On the one hand, we have bikes that ditch derailleur gear systems in favor of single-speed setups driven by belts. While in the urban setting, this would make sense as electric motors tend to have enough torque to get you going from a start, the same isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to performance-oriented and for-sport e-bikes. This is why we’re seeing integrated gearboxes into electric motors such as products from Pinion, as well as other internal drivetrain systems from the likes of Enviolo.
One of the new and exciting innovations in the world of e-bike drivetrains comes to us from Intra Drive. The Scottish startup wants to set a new standard when it comes to e-bike systems, favoring compactness, durability, and efficient performance. The way it works is by combining an electric motor and an eight-speed gearbox into a single, mid-mounted assembly. This way, bike builders are able to achieve two things: a solid, durable build that eliminates exposed drivetrain components such as derailleurs; and reduced maintenance as the internal system will require little to no adjustments whatsoever.
On the performance side of things, the Intra Drive GD8 dishes out a maximum output of 600 watts (nominal output is 250 watts in compliance with European e-bike regulations), and up to 350 percent assistance. To offer an even smoother ride, the system gets variable torque based on gear selection. On the drivetrain side of the equation, the system gets an eight-speed gearbox with a total of 473 percent gearing range. Accorindg to the company, the gears are consistently gapped, and the electronic shifting mechanism can change gears in 100 milliseconds. For reference, that’s about as fast as the blink of an eye.
As far as compatibility is concerned, the Intra Drive system has the same form factor as Shimano EP8 and EP801-equipped e-bikes, translating to a pretty much bolt-on application for bikes equipped with these motors. It is, however, worth noting that the Intra Drive weighs in at 4.5 kilograms (1.8 kilograms heavier than the EP801), but this is easily forgivable as it integrates a drivetrain into a single assembly.
E-bikes rocking this setup will have a wide selection of drive options such as chain or belt drives, however, concerns surrounding aftermarket issues – specifically warranty concerns for Shimano-equipped frames – have arisen. On top of that, the system’s smaller 24-tooth chainring may affect some full-suspension bikes’ anti-squat properties, thereby affecting suspension performance on some bikes.
Nevertheless, the Intra Drive system poses a lot of potential, not only for the e-MTB segment, but the entire e-bike segment, too. The system’s versatility means that it can easily be installed on commuter bikes, cargo e-bikes, and other mid-drive configuration LEVs. At present, the startup is adopting a B2B business model, specifically targeting e-bike manufacturers to make use of their system for new models in the near future.